My Legal Life in Las Vegas

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Ed. note: Nothing chaps my ass more than having some nimrod tell me to “stick to food” whenever I offer an opinion on something other than restaurants. Many people only know me as a food writer, since restaurant writing has defined my public persona for more than two decades. In fact, though, I have been a practicing attorney for much longer than that. Below is the first of two short essays to give you an idea about my other personal odyssey.
28 years ago last month, I moved back to Las Vegas from Danbury, Connecticut.
For 6 years I practiced law in this building with some very fine people.
I left that practice and those fine people for a larger firm which, I thought at the time, was more in line with my ambitions as a lawyer.
For almost 5 years, my new position was beneficial for all involved, but the relationship ended badly (along with my third marriage).
After I was shown the door, I ran unsuccessfully for judge, then started a solo law practice in January, 2003.

That solo practice was challenging, anxiety-provoking, and nerve-racking, but after another 5 years it was starting to gain traction and bear some fruit.

I was lured away from my one-man operation by another large firm, but almost to the day I started (January, 2008), the Great Recession blew into town with gale force winds, dooming whatever was left of my legal practice, and my prospects for a comfortable life with a big firm.

By late 2010, I was back at ground zero – just like I had been in 2003 — only this time there was no traction to be gained, and I spent the next 4 years hanging on by my fingernails. (As I told the Food Gal® at the time: “It’s like having a nervous breakdown once a month.”)

In the summer of 2014, the clouds parted and I became a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Las Vegas — a job full of challenges, but also something I can be proud of, without the pressures private practice.

If I’ve learned one thing from my 40 years of being a lawyer it’s that the only thing you can depend upon is change. Even if you stay in the same place your whole life, you are not the person (or the attorney) you were 10 years ago. Sometimes you progress, and sometimes you regress, but the entire journey makes you a better counselor in late middle age than you ever were when you considered yourself a hot shot litigator.

I’ve also learned that the key to life is continually having something to look forward to. Whether it’s this day, this week, or this year, there should always be a goal, or an activity, or a simple pleasure that motivates you to move ahead — to never be wholly content with where you are, to always be excited about what’s coming up.

By the same token, I’ve learned never to plan too far ahead, because curve balls come at you from all angles in life, and sometimes you throw them at yourself.

3 thoughts on “My Legal Life in Las Vegas

  1. John,
    I knew you as the internet LV food guy during your years as a private practice lawyer. When I bought a 1964 Ford Fairlane in LV and brought it back to Canada I reached out to you to check that I had clear title to the auto. I told your personal assistant thought i only knew you through and your Essential Guide books and web broadcasts with Al Mancini. She called me back the next day and informed me the title was clean. I sked how much to settle the account and she told me there would be no charge. I never did thank you for that so THANKS.

  2. John – like many I started following you for your dining blog which was fantastic. I wondered where you would head next.

    What you wrote today is incredible and really caught me. I’ve been an executive for a long time and you put into words something I’ve struggled to figure out on my own. What used to excite me doesn’t and my gut has been right to find new challenges.

    Next time I’m in Vegas I’d love to buy you dinner and meet you. You have quite the story.

  3. Thanks for sharing your professional history, John. While I’ve heard this in bits and pieces along the way, I appreciate seeing the big story in chronological order. It seems you are in a happy place in your life now. Perhaps some of the trouble spots you navigated through have made you more appreciative of today’s relative stability. There is wisdom in your words.

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